IMAP: Sequence numbers change when deleting (but not UID’s)


When using IMAP and fetching emails by sequence, does looping through the sequence get affected by deleting in mid-sequence or other changes to the mailbox’s content on the server?


The answer is obtained by examining the IMAP specification (RFC 3501).  Here’s what it says:        Message Sequence Number Message Attribute

   A relative position from 1 to the number of messages in the mailbox.
   This position MUST be ordered by ascending unique identifier.  As
   each new message is added, it is assigned a message sequence number
   that is 1 higher than the number of messages in the mailbox before
   that new message was added.

   Message sequence numbers can be reassigned during the session.  For
   example, when a message is permanently removed (expunged) from the
   mailbox, the message sequence number for all subsequent messages is
   decremented.  The number of messages in the mailbox is also
   decremented.  Similarly, a new message can be assigned a message
   sequence number that was once held by some other message prior to an

   In addition to accessing messages by relative position in the
   mailbox, message sequence numbers can be used in mathematical
   calculations.  For example, if an untagged "11 EXISTS" is received,
   and previously an untagged "8 EXISTS" was received, three new
   messages have arrived with message sequence numbers of 9, 10, and 11.
   Another example, if message 287 in a 523 message mailbox has UID
   12345, there are exactly 286 messages which have lesser UIDs and 236
   messages which have greater UIDs.